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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 02-12-18

Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Cyprus Mail at <http://www.cyprus-mail.com/>


Wednesday, December 18, 2002

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CONTENTS

  • [01] Talat: opposition to step up measures to unseat Denktash
  • [02] Government delays announcement of aid package for Turkish Cypriots
  • [03] Galanos: there's no point in talking with Denktash
  • [04] Turkish Cypriot back home after kidney transplant
  • [05] You have to stand up for your rights: the woman who took on the strikers
  • [06] More civil servants needed for EU accession
  • [07] Finance Ministry deal averts EAC strike
  • [08] Activists' concerns over new guidelines for foreign workers
  • [09] Study finds wide fluctuations in supermarket prices

  • [01] Talat: opposition to step up measures to unseat Denktash

    TURKISH Cypriot parties and organisations yesterday announced they were preparing an action plan to force Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash to resign.

    The leader of the Republican Turkish Party, Mehmet Ali Talat, yesterday repeated his call for Denktash's resignation: "We believe Denktash does not represent the interests of the Turkish Cypriots, and not only at this specific time.

    "We were aware of this before; Denktash had to support the interests of the Turkish Cypriots, but unfortunately he did not," Talat said.

    "We believe we have to do it (force him to resign) or else he won't defend the interests of the Turkish Cypriots."

    Talat - who was summoned for urgent consultations in Ankara at the weekend - said Denktash's stance also damaged the interests of Turkey and revealed that the opposition's measures would include "protests and many other things".

    Talat revealed that an attempt would be made through 'parliament' to relieve Denktash from his duties as negotiator, despite the Turkish Cypriot leader holding a majority in the assembly.

    "The tragic irony is that the international community is disenchanted with Denktash's stance, but our state is not recognised internationally.

    "By recognising Denktash as the leader of the community, they give him more power," Talat said.

    Talat warned the UN initiative risked losing its momentum in the aftermath of Copenhagen, despite the plan still being on the negotiating table.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

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    [02] Government delays announcement of aid package for Turkish Cypriots

    By George Psyllides

    THE Government said yesterday it was delaying the announcement of a package of measures to support the Turkish Cypriot community after "certain factors" emerged that required further consultation, Foreign Minister Yiannakis Cassoulides said yesterday.

    Speaking after a meeting with President Glafcos Clerides, Cassoulides said he did not expect the government to publicise the measures any time soon because of issues that had emerged since the package was promised in Copenhagen last Friday.

    The measures are expected to focus mainly on the free movement of products and support for independent organisations and educational centres.

    "We have to consider various factors, including some necessary co-operation with the European Commission, some fears expressed by leaders of the Turkish Cypriot community, and I am not sure that we will proceed to announce the measures any time soon," Cassoulides said.

    He added: "We will need some more consultation time before we decide."

    The subcommittee set up to study the measures convened yesterday morning for two hours.

    Chief EU negotiator George Vassiliou said after the meeting that the measures were important and within legal frameworks.

    Reports said the measures were finalised yesterday, though concerns were expressed on how much to give the Turkish Cypriots without running the risk of recognition of the breakaway state.

    Sources said some members of the subcommittee feared the measures could be counterproductive.

    Apart from Cassoulides and Vassiliou, the subcommittee was made up of Finance Minister Takis Klerides, Government Spokesman Michalis Papapetrou, Attorney-general Alecos Markides and other government officials.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

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    [03] Galanos: there's no point in talking with Denktash

    By George Psyllides

    FORMER House president Alexis Galanos said yesterday the Greek Cypriot side should not accept Rauf Denktash as Turkish Cypriot negotiator, saying it would be a waste of time, and could be dangerous.

    Denktash's popularity in the north has been in freefall since the European Union summit in Copenhagen, at which Cyprus secured an invitation to join the bloc.

    Ordinary Turkish Cypriots blame Denktash for not agreeing on a settlement of the Cyprus problem, thus depriving the people of the chance to join the EU.

    Galanos suggested the Greek Cypriot side should raise the issue of Denktash for two main reasons.

    "He does not want a solution and it seems that right now he does not have the people's mandate," Galanos said.

    The former House president said the Greek Cypriot side should make it clear that it could not negotiate with Denktash unless his mandate was renewed or Ankara changed its policy on Cyprus.

    Galanos said that even if there was an agreement with Denktash, he did not believe the transition would be smooth.

    "It would be dangerous and more or less condemned," Galanos said.

    He added that the Greek Cypriot side should negotiate the United Nations plan but without Dektash, whom he described as unreliable.

    Galanos said the plan could have been better had it been submitted after Copenhagen and wondered if the Greek Cypriot side could have prevented it from being tabled when it did - just before the EU summit.

    Galanos said the summit had been a game of "high-level poker" and that Cyprus had come under levels of blackmail that should not be accepted from now on.

    He said the Greek Cypriot side had come out on top because it was always safe to count on Turkish intransigence.

    He repeated that if the plan had been submitted after Copenhagen, it could have been better for the Greek Cypriot side, which gained an advantage after the EU summit.

    "Whatever we do now, we will find the plan in front of us," Galanos said.

    He added it would be difficult to improve the plan, but said Cyprus would have a problem if it tried to avoid a solution.

    He nevertheless added that the Greek Cypriot side should engage in tougher negotiations after Copenhagen.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

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    [04] Turkish Cypriot back home after kidney transplant

    By Alexia Saoulli

    A 23-YEAR-old Turkish Cypriot refused treatment in Turkey after he was beaten by his officer during military service has gone back to the north where he is recovering after a kidney transplant at the Paraskevaidion Surgical and Transplant Foundation two weeks ago.

    Dervan Tureray was released from the foundation on Monday, following a successful transplant and returned back to the occupied areas, an official at the centre said yesterday.

    The Cyprus Mail reported the incident last week, after Turkish Cypriot opposition paper Afrika highlighted Tureray's plight to find a kidney, following the injury several years ago. The paper said the Turkish commander of his army unit in the north had thrashed him with a "justice stick", because he was late returning from leave. The beating was so severe he lost function of one of his kidneys, the paper said. But when Tureray sought to have a transplant in Turkey he was told his mother could not serve as a donor as she was not a match.

    The Paraskevaidion Foundation did not know any of the intricate details of the case.

    "We do not know any such details," said the source. "All we know is his doctors in the north sent him to the general hospital here and he was then referred to us." This was the second operation the Foundation had carried out on a Turkish Cypriot and others were on the waiting list, she said.

    "We do not discriminate between nationalities or ethnicities," the official stressed.

    Besides, as a Turkish Cypriot with Cypriot nationality, the patient was eligible for free medical care.

    "He did not pay for the operation. It is paid for by the government," she said.

    Tureray appeared to be in good psychological condition when he left for home on Monday. The five-hour procedure was very successful and surgeons were pleased with the results. Although there is always a fear of organ rejection, the youth was recuperating well, she said.

    "We just spoke to his brother today, because Tureray does not speak any English, and he is fine. Initially he will come in twice a week for checkups, then in due course this will be extended to once a week, once every fortnight, once a month and finally once every two months." He will have to have these checkups to ensure his kidney is functioning properly for the rest of his life, she said.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

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    [05] You have to stand up for your rights: the woman who took on the strikers

    By Stefanos Evripidou

    "I will fight for my rights and for justice." The words of battling shopkeeper, Eleni Kondiadou, who led a group of angry merchants to force an end to the 'plastic' money strike that was crippling their Christmas sales.

    But Kondiadou, looking back on the day when she and her friends "knocked heads together" at banking trade union headquarters in Nicosia, insists that she has never done anything like it before.

    The group of shopkeepers led by Kondiadou unexpectedly dropped in at the headquarters of the bank employees' trade union ETYK on Monday and forced employers and union leaders to hammer out a deal so people could get back to shopping and they could get on with business. Their demands were met and a solution was found within two hours. JCC employees returned to work yesterday while banks allowed plastic card transactions again.

    The sequence of events that sparked off the astonishing protest began three weeks ago when ETYK called a strike at JCC Payment Systems over the re- hiring of an information technology specialist. The dispute caused huge business and shopping problems, eventually halting all credit and debit card transactions at midnight on Friday and creating a backlog of unprocessed transactions reaching £40 million. Consumers were panicking, the economy was suffering and shopkeepers were feeling the brunt.

    The impulsive decision of shopkeepers to take matters into their own hands was the underlying factor that ended the strike and put the economy back on its feet. Headed by Kondiadou, the team of protesters refused to leave the building until union leader, Loizos Hadjicostis and JCC head, Evdokimos Xenofondos shook on a deal to end the strike which Labour Minister Andreas Moushiouttas heard and approved on the other end of a mobile phone.

    The decision to take action had come a day earlier when Kondiadou decided she had had enough. The multi-store she owns and runs in Nicosia, Caterways, was feeling the pinch of the bank card freeze.

    "I was very tired and found it unjust what was happening. I had to fight for my rights," she said. "We had started preparations for Christmas from September. A whole team of us made plans, orders, decorations, Christmas programmes, organised marketing, trained staff, the lot. This is the most important time of the year for businesses."

    Kondiadou, a mother of two, said she gave up precious time with her children to arrange everything. "When we stayed open last weekend and realised the effect of the strike on the market, I knew I had to do something," she said.

    The following Sunday, Kondiadou decided to make calls to concerned shopkeepers, tourism agents, and ordinary consumers to take action. The next morning at 10am, a group of 50-odd merchants were at the doors of the union headquarters, startling their leader who was forced to make an impromptu conference.

    "Luckily, I had the support of everyone. It was a team effort and nobody had any doubts. Everybody was affected. I don't think the parties involved realised how serious the problem was or that people were experiencing a real crisis which was going to get worse."

    The defiant store owner, despite taking such action for the first time, insists that she will always fight for her rights and for justice. "When people don't fight for their rights or react to injustice, they don't give the message to those that run the place that everything's not OK," said Kondiadou.

    She compared it to running a shop. "I made this shop and thought it was OK but when I heard other peoples' opinions, I changed it. The feedback from my clients helped. You need that in society too."

    Asked if she had feared her unplanned actions might fail, she replied sternly, "I was not going to leave until something was done. And those involved also understood that the problem had to be solved." Kondiadou maintains that the successful mobilisation of shopkeepers was totally spontaneous. "There were no union members, party officials or representatives. Just us, not one or two of us, but all of us together sitting in that conference room."

    Regarding her success, the end of the strike and the resumption of bank card transactions, the rookie negotiator smiles as people start shopping again. "People are breathing again and you can actually feel the Christmas spirit now. People are less worried about their money and can use their cards which have been widely distributed lately. the pulse of Christmas is back."

    When someone takes such decisive and dynamic action to resolve a confrontation was having untold consequences, the question begs. a life in politics? She chuckles before responding, "No to politics, I just want my job to go well."

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

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    [06] More civil servants needed for EU accession

    By Stefanos Evripidou

    CYPRUS will need more civil servants to provide greater protection for citizens and the environment as it joins the European Union, Law Commissioner and head of EU affairs at the Legal Services, Leda Koursoumba, said yesterday.

    Koursoumba told the Cyprus Mail that 840 laws, regulations and administrative orders had been prepared to implement the mass of legislation passed down from Brussels. Most of the legislation has already passed through parliament while the number of new employees required to deal with the increased workload is set out in this year's budget at the Finance Ministry, said Koursoumba. The whole load of primary and secondary legislation prepared under the acquis communautaire will probably be enacted by March 2003, she added.

    "When there is a new function in the acquis communautaire, we try to accommodate it within the existing department structures. But occasionally we have to create a new structure to accommodate the new competences," said Koursoumba.

    Departments where existing staff could not accommodate new obligations include the sections of the Health, Commerce, Labour and Agriculture ministries.

    Kouroumba said concerns over increasing an already large public sector should not shadow the advantages of the acquis.

    She listed some of the benefits of the huge volume of laws implemented. "Increased health protection and checks from maternal services and other health departments, greater protection for the consumer and more price checks by the Commerce Ministry, a more comprehensive social policy on employment, including protection for women and children, remuneration, and conditions of work."

    For the Agriculture Ministry, the commissioner said many obligations would be introduced concerning environmental issues and the number of controls from veterinary services.

    "Many existing staff have already been organised to deal with the bulk of legislation requirements, and some have gone to Brussels to be trained. But the European Commission itself has told us that we need to expand various administrative sectors to accommodate all the competences," she said.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

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    [07] Finance Ministry deal averts EAC strike

    By Nicole Neroulias

    THE FINANCE Ministry has approved an agreement with employees of the Electricity Authority of Cyprus (EAC), averting strike action in the new year.

    Union leaders and EAC administration had signed their 2001-2003 budget agreement in July, sending it to the Finance Ministry and the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Tourism for the required approval.

    But in October, the Finance Ministry determined there were some changes that needed to be made to the agreement concerning allocation of funds, said EAC spokesman Costas Gavrielides.

    "It seems that the Ministry of Finance had some new ideas about the budget, " Gavrielides said.

    Leaders from the four unions representing EAC employees, EPOPAI, SIDIKEK, SEPAIK and SYBAIK, met with EAC administrators Monday to urge them to take the measures necessary to have the budget approved.

    A meeting between administration, the unions and the Finance Minister yesterday morning finally resulted in the finalisation of the budget.

    "This should have been approved long ago; it's long overdue," Gavrielides said.

    The agreement will be retroactively effective as of January 1, 2001. All employees who worked at EAC between that date and the present time will receive the negotiated salary increases from the last two years, Gavrielides said.

    In addition to wage increases, the agreement allocates more money towards company cultural activities and reorganises elements of the company's structure. The agreement also calls for a cost-cutting 10 per cent reduction in the number of professional engineers employed by the EAC, from 300 to 270, Gavrielides said.

    "The changes all have one purpose: to make the Electricity Authority more efficient," Gavrielides said.

    The agreement will be up for renegotiation at the end of 2003.

    More than 2,000 people are employed by the Electricity Authority of Cyprus. By the end of 2003 the number of consumers connected to the EAC network is expected to reach 428,000, compared to 333,850 at the end of 1995.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

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    [08] Activists' concerns over new guidelines for foreign workers

    By Nicole Neroulias

    ADVOCATES for foreign workers are keeping a close watch on the Interior Ministry this week, as it proposes measures for limiting the number of non- Europeans working in Cyprus.

    Cyprus currently has the highest proportion of foreign workers compared to any other country in Europe, with one in 10 workers coming from abroad. The workers, one-third of whom are employed as housemaids, are primarily from Sri Lanka and the Philippines, followed by Bulgarians, Greeks, Russians and Romanians.

    A ministerial committee convened on Monday to discuss the rise in numbers of foreigners employed on the island. More than 30,000 foreigners work in Cyprus, compared to only 15,000 in 1995.

    During its discussion, the committee decided to reduce the maximum duration of foreign workers' residence to five years from six. The new duration is consistent with proposed EU directives, which state that migrant workers that stay for more than five years must be granted long-term residency and work permits.

    Doros Polycarpou, of the Immigration Support Action Group, said the Interior Ministry should consider the benefits of encouraging foreign workers to stay longer, particularly since many of them were involved in a child-care capacity.

    "Long-term people can cope better with their duties," he said. "It's also better for the family and the children to have stability and consistency."

    Interior Minister Andreas Panayiotou said the government planned to change the employment criteria for housemaids, so as gradually to reduce the numbers of foreigners employed in that capacity. Among other things, the committee decided to raise housemaids' monthly remuneration to £180 from £150.

    The committee's decisions will be submitted to the Cabinet, Panayiotou said.

    With regard to employment strategies, Panayiotou said priority would be given to the Cypriot labour force, followed by citizens of EU countries, citizens of EU-candidate countries, then to citizens of other countries.

    Polycarpou criticized this strategy, calling it "blatantly racist."

    "According to European law, all Europeans are equal - you cannot put them after Cypriots," he said. "And this strategy openly states a preference for Cypriots, then white Europeans, then Asians and Africans, which creates racial divisions"

    Charis Kyriakides, former legal advisor to the Guardian of Turkish Cypriot properties, said the Interior Minister's announcement reflected recent efforts to reach out to Turkish Cypriot workers.

    "They are working on plans for the easiest ways of employing Turkish Cypriots," Kyriakides said. "We already have this phenomenon concerning the building industry, where we have hundreds of Turkish Cypriots working. And with the EU asking for higher pay for foreigners, why should people employ a foreigner if it costs as much as employing a Cypriot?"

    Polycarpou, however, said that Turkish Cypriots should not be considered a new source of cheap labour.

    "We should not see the Turkish Cypriots as they were in the past, doing the less desirable jobs," he said. "But I have the feeling that this is the idea."

    Polycarpou added that even an influx of Turkish Cypriot labour in the near future would not provide a long-term solution to the Cypriot labour shortage.

    "In a few years, the north part of the country is going to have a very good development, and they are going to need migrant forces as well," he said.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

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    [09] Study finds wide fluctuations in supermarket prices

    By Alexia Saoulli

    CONSUMERS should think twice before venturing out to shop for basic provisions, the Consumers Association warned yesterday, saying that with prices fluctuating more than 40 per cent from one supermarket to another, consumers were being taken for a ride and would be wise to consider shopping in cheaper stores.

    The warning came following yesterday's publication of a recent study by Intercollege's Research and Development centre. The project aimed to pinpoint what, if any, price differences existed from one local supermarket to another over a sample of 48 products. The study was carried out over four days, December 4-9, and examined 15 supermarkets in Nicosia, eight in Limassol, seven in Larnaca and six in Paphos.

    "We were astounded by the results," said Consumers Association President Petros Markou, with Nicosia turning out to be the least expensive place to shop for groceries, followed by Larnaca, Limassol and Paphos.

    However, Nicosia had the highest fluctuations in prices: "In Nicosia, 13 products fluctuated in price by over 40 per cent, in Limassol 10 and Larnaca and Paphos five," he said.

    For example, in Nicosia the price of a bag of 45 gram Lays crisps fluctuated up to 90 per cent from one shop to another, pork chops up to 117.17 per cent and one kilo of potatoes up to 150 per cent. In Limassol the price of pork chops fluctuated by 210.94 per cent, greenhouse cucumbers by 87.5 per cent and Diet 7-Up and Coca Cola by 48.81 per cent. In Larnaca pork chops had a 75 per cent fluctuation and one kilo of tomatoes varied up to 66.67 per cent. In Paphos, Nescafé fluctuated by 109.68 per cent and Greek coffee by 62.5 per cent.

    The researchers split the different prices into three categories: the 0-20 per cent difference range, the 20-40 per cent band and the over 40 per cent group.

    In Nicosia and Limassol, 23 of the 48 products were in the first category, but in Larnaca and Paphos these numbers reached 38 and 36 respectively.

    In the second group, 12 products in Nicosia had a 20-40 per cent difference in price; these included deodorant, cognac and insect repellent. Limassol had 15 products in this group, including margarine, flour and eggs; Larnaca had five and Paphos six. Thirteen products varied from shop to shop by over 40 per cent in Nicosia; they included toothpaste, panadol and oranges; there were 10 products in Limassol, including baby shampoo, mincemeat and chicken; and five in both Larnaca and Paphos.

    "Although only five out of 48 products in Paphos had a 40 per cent difference in price, this might be because all the prices are higher than the average there anyway and so they are forced to keep financial differences smaller," said Markou.

    And while there were fluctuations between individual products, it was difficult to establish a trend: "We are talking about a difference in cents, " an Intercollege source told the Cyprus Mail. "In other words, overall, once the basket of goods has been bought and paid for one supermarket might be £4 more expensive than another." In essence, it would depend on the individual consumer, and whether he wanted to spend a few pounds more in one supermarket over another, he said.

    Nonetheless the ball was in consumers' court, if they felt prices were very high.

    "Shoppers have the power not to go and shop in a particular supermarket. If they boycott a place, it'll force prices down and improve competition," said Markou. "There should be laws protecting consumers from these outrageous differences in price and yet nothing is being done."

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002


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